“Texas Boys”

by Bryan Daniel

The first time I saw George W. Bush
Was at a Texas Rangers game in the early 1990s.
My parents had gotten tickets
A few rows behind the home dugout.
The owner of the team at the time,
He was sitting directly behind the dugout
Watching Nolan Ryan throw leather bullets
And cheering, as we all were.
My mother leaned over to ask,
“Do you know who that is honey?
That’s the President’s son.”

Then he got elected Governor,
Then President.
I graduated high school,
And 9/11 happened on a Tuesday
That same year.
He stood in the rubble of the World Trade Center
And rallied the country
In an act of inspired patriotism.

Then war.

The Army and the desert;
Orders and mortars;
My Commander-In-Chief
At the top of every
Photographic chain-of-command
Posted outside every unit.

Then the world started to fall apart
Around the same time mine did:
Global financial recessions and mortgage crises;
Everyone shouting shouting shouting.
It was like the foundation of a house
Suddenly collapsed, and all I had to fix it
Were angry tools.

By the time he left office
He looked as tired as I felt.

Almost a decade later in graduate school at Southern Methodist University,
Through a series of applications and interviews,
I am selected as a student representative for a Board of Trustees dinner
His wife Laura, an alumna, usually attends.
We are informed a week prior she is not attending this year.

I arrive at the dinner early.
At the bar the wait staff are preparing
Red and white wines to be served with dinner.
In a bucket of ice sit six non-alcoholic beers.
“Why non-alcoholic beers?” I ask.
“Those are for the President,” they respond.

Putting two and two together I verify with the
Event coordinator he is indeed coming, and
Ask discretely if I can meet him.
She talks to a couple people, comes back and says,
“Being the only veteran here tonight,
You’re going to greet him when he comes in the door.”

Not every soldier meets their Commander-In-Chief,
Especially not me.
“Stand up straight”, “keep your bearing”,
“Ask him how his father’s doing,” I tell myself,
Recalling memories of the promotion board.

The crowd goes silent as Secret Service Agents appear.
He enters the room smiling and looks at me –
I stick out my hand,
We shake,
He pulls me close,
And hugs me tightly.

I don’t exactly remember what happened after that,
But I forgot to ask him how his father was doing.